Stockholm class seeks amends

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Students on the full-time MBA programme at Sweden’s Stockholm School of Economics are seeking financial compensation following a decision by the school’s board that it will not recruit a new class next year.

Many of the 28 students on the one-year MBA believe the decision, taken on November 27, effectively terminates the programme, just three years after it opened in 2004. However, at the next board meeting in March the future of the full-time MBA will be revisited, says Peter Hägglund, chief executive of IFL, the executive education arm of SSE.

The latest announcements only add to the confusion surrounding SSE’s MBA programme. Early last month, reports appeared in the Swedish press saying the MBA programme would be terminated. Then in mid-November Lars Bergman, president of SSE, told the Financial Times that the programme would continue in 2008, but would be redesigned.

The school says its full-time MBA programme is a casualty of the Swedish government’s implementation of the Bologna accord, the European Union-backed initiative intended to harmonise degree formats across Europe. In Sweden the new regulations, which became effective on July 1, require all masters degrees to be two years in length and – perhaps more significantly – to be offered free of charge to students from the EU. However, it will be illegal only to charge fees to individual participants. It will still be legal to charge fees for programmes where the students are company-sponsored – SSE’s executive MBAs for example.

When the SSE board meets in March it is expected to propose a different type of degree, which will be two years in length and may be aimed at younger students.

In countries such as France, which has also opted to make masters degrees two years in length, MBA degrees are not included in the ruling. Indeed many French business schools offer one-year MBA degrees alongside their two-year masters programmes.

Reputation

The students on SSE’s MBA cohort delivered a letter to the school on November 30 asking for compensation for the programme closure. This is expected to include reimbursement of their fees plus expenses for moving house and so on. Although the class of 2008 will complete the programme, they are concerned that the degree’s value and reputation will be damaged.

As well as the wrath of the students, SSE officials will also have to explain their position to the programme’s alumni and others, such as industrial mentors.

One of the innovative features of the full-time MBA in Stockholm has been that students are mentored by Swedish business leaders, such as Jacob Wallenberg of the banking group SEB.

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